Sunday 30 June 2002

Happy Birthday to Thomas Sowell (30th June)

Tom is one of the clearest writers of economics today. Try this book for a starter.

Saturday 29 June 2002

A Scottish look at America

American readers may be interested in this editorial in The Scotsman.

The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Statists

I would like to draw your attention to a new blog from Roland Watson of Edinburgh. The Holy Blog will "uttereth on things Christian and libertarian"

As Roland says:

Those who aspire to self-appointed greatness in the Church as well as the State will also feel the wrath of the Holy Blog.

It's the culture, stupid

A few weeks ago, I made the case that entrepreneurs are not produced by business schools. Nevertheless, I applaud this programme.

As Tom Hunter says:

For the sake of clarity, the Schools Enterprise Programme, which gives two enterprise modules to every child in Scotland over their seven year primary education and is a 50/50 partnership between the private sector and the Scottish Executive - is not about creating entrepreneurs, it's about creating and supporting a culture of enterprise, something we fundamentally need if we are to succeed in this century

Thursday 27 June 2002

Telling it like it is

From the always excellent Gary North, the best commentary on the guys at WorldCom:
Who did they think they were, Social Security Trust Fund administrators, where a $20 trillion unfunded liability is never put on the official accounting books, where the "trust fund" is filled with unmarketable government bonds, where a $100 billion annual increase in the liability (cash accounting, not accrual) to future retirees in what is called an off-budget government program is counted as income in the government's on-budget accounts, and is used to reduce the official debt in the Federal budget? The government must bring these miscreants to justice!

Adam Smith is turning in his grave

We can either talk about the real economy or we can talk about the markets -the BBC's "economic" expert on television this morning speaking about WorldCom.

Wednesday 26 June 2002

More on the pensions scandal

Once again, the taxpayer will be compelled to bail out "public" sector pensions leaving us with less for our own retirement. I especially liked the euphemism: "but the Scottish Executive promised that it would provide extra cash to deal with the problem."

It would provide! These people are so funny sometimes.

Who are the "victims" here?

Yet another waste of our money. Can't these politicians just leave us alone? Sadly, no.

Who is the victim?

No wonder the police can't cope with crime when this kind of nonsense goes on.

Tuesday 25 June 2002

The truth is out there...

Thanks to Andrew Ian Dodge for pointing out the news about Scotland's top position in the world UFO sighting league. Of course, this does not surprise me in the least - the aliens' mother ship is normally parked a few hundred yards from here masquerading as the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. We are not fooled. I was glad to learn that a local entrepreneur is organising tours to the locations of sightings. After many conversations with the aliens at this location, I can confirm that they strongly approve of both Freedom and Whisky.

Monday 24 June 2002

Freedom and Whisky's hometown

Edinburgh's economy is booming. The city survey published with The Scotsman today has some fascinating numbers. The Edinburgh GDP per capita in 1998 was £18,417 which equates to $30,572 at the then exchange rate. If Edinburgh were an independent country, it would be the third wealthiest in the world beaten only by Luxembourg and the US. Perhaps it is time for an Edinburgh National Party!

After the World Cup

Here is a somewhat pro-English article by a well-known Scottish Nationalist.

Sunday 23 June 2002


There is an interesting letter in the Sunday Times from John Tanner of Bristol. He writes:
Final salary schemes represent an unquantifiable liability and hence cannot be offered honourably by any organisation, public or private.

He goes on to say:

The law should not allow such hollow promises to be made and certainly governments should never have engaged in so doing.

I fully understand why private companies are ending their final salary pension schemes and it would be ludicrous to force them to keep these schemes in force (other than for existing contractual arrangements) as some trade unions are suggesting. But of course governments can offer final salary pension schemes – not because they are cleverer at playing the stock market but because they can use the power of taxation and money printing to meet any pension shortfalls. This may well result in an inflationary spiral but governments can meet their pension liabilities in nominal terms. The real question is why are there so many government jobs in the first place. It is the size and cost of the state sector, together with ever-expanding red tape, which makes it so difficult for those in the productive sector to provide for an adequate retirement income.

Back on line

My ISP has been on a "go-slow" since Saturday morning. This meant that I had to adopt the old-fashioned way of keeping in touch with the world by going to the pub and reading the Sunday papers. And good news there is. According to The Business:

Former British transport secretary Stephen Byers is to take an active role extolling the virtues of the single European currency.

Well, that's one problem solved.

Friday 21 June 2002

The seen and the unseen

This row is getting very interesting. It has now become the conventional (and correct) wisdom that Scotland's future is better served by having a lot more locally based and owned businesses than by spending taxpayers' money on luring inward investment. Many, many of these tax-funded incomers have packed up and gone.

Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, has now called for the abolition of Scottish Enterprise, the government's business funding body. On their website, I read the following:

As a result of our activities during 1999-2000, we estimate we will help add approximately £900 million a year to the output of the Scottish economy over the next three years, creating or securing around 25,000 jobs.
In the nineteenth century, Frederic Bastiat explained that we should always look at both what is seen and what is unseen when looking at economic matters. Or, as accountants would put it: look at the debits as well as the credits.

I therefore challenge Scottish Enterprise to answer the following: how many jobs would have been "created or secured" if the money spent by this quango had been left in taxpayers' pockets and freely invested in enterprises approved by the marketplace rather than by government bureaucrats?

Leviathan marches on

I too had thought of applying for one of the new policy analyst jobs. Week one: privatise the schools; week two: abolish the Scottish National "Health" Service; week three: make criminals fully compensate their victims; week four: end corporate welfare. Bill Jamieson is absolutely right to complain about the inexorable expansion of the public sector. Could someone please explain why those who live at the expense of others have the right to vote?

Thursday 20 June 2002

Spinning cops

Perhaps the police should ask Enron to recommend a new auditor...

Cheap flights to the Highlands?

Let's hope that Ryanair is able to negotiate a suitable deal.

Wednesday 19 June 2002

The Scottish Numptie Party

The Scottish Nationalists have an unerring ability to shoot themselves in the foot. By striking a blow at the re-election chances of Andrew Wilson, the shadow enterprise minister, the party's activists have ruined months of hard work spent wooing the business community. This editorial in The Scotsman is typical of the response in the Scottish press.

Another Blair makes another gaffe

After the Prime Minister muscles in on various royal events, his wife commits political "Cheriecide".

Easy rider

More chaos on state owned road systems.

Tuesday 18 June 2002

Only two months to go

If you plan to visit Scotland this summer, look at the links to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe. A week ago, I read somewhere that the Fringe was going to have 10,000 separate individual performances but their website now claims 20,342.

Beam them up, Scottie!

Australian scientists have been making progress on Star Trek technology.
".... for a human to be teleported would mean pinpointing and analysing the trillions and trillions of atoms that make up the human body", says the report.

But, listen to this: may not be long before solid matter is teleported from one place to another. "My prediction will probably be done by someone in the next three to five years, that is the teleportation of a single atom."

A single atom! We could thus zap politicians out of the solar system at the touch of a button. Isn't science wonderful?

Monday 17 June 2002

Buy this book

Mises, Menger, Hayek, Rothbard and now Callahan! I've ordered my copy. So should you.

I'll drink to this!

Before the Blog House went on to broadband, the initial work on F&W was carried out at the EasyJet internet cafe in Rose Street. After such strenuous activity, it was necessary to visit Robertson's Bar for a small refreshment from the selection of over 100 malts. It is good news that the new owner will "retain its traditional character" - hopefully without running into problems with the taxman!

Crichton v Reid

The struggle continues. Bruce Crichton also had a letter published in The Business (no links) yesterday in which he explains to Andrew Neil, publisher of both The Scotsman and The Business, the facts about anti-trust laws and the 1929 crash. As Bruce says:
Whenever a "crisis in capitalism" is claimed, it is always the result of government intervention and always an attempt to justify further interventionism.

Sunday 16 June 2002

Chill the bubbly!

"New" Labour is getting into more and more trouble. I have a bottle of champagne ready to be consumed when Blair is dragged screaming from Downing Street. The time is coming.....

Just what we need - more bureaucrats!

This story shows why the Scottish Parliament needs to be made responsible for collecting all of its own revenue instead of living on handouts from Westminster.

Saturday 15 June 2002

Beginning to see the light

Scottish doctors now see the NHS as a "political football" to win votes. Even with Scotland moving to the top of European spending levels, people will never accept the failures which are endemic to a politicised health system. The Patients' Association thinks that the NHS should be "apolitical." Sorry guys - not while it's owned by the state.

Tory squabbles

The Conservatives used get lots of money from the beer trade. Could they organise a party in a brewery? Perhaps not.


Over on England's Sword, Iain Murray asks why the new Scottish "small government" party was described in the Scotsman as "bolshevik." I too found that description rather odd, especially coming from Bill Jamieson - someone whom I would expect to be sympathetic. I presume it is used in the sense of being a radical challenge to the established order. Bruntsfield, the upmarket inner-city area of Edinburgh in which the preliminary party meetings have been held, was one of the places in Scotland from which golf went out to conquer the world. Perhaps Bruntsfield could now show the way forward to a world of unpaid politicians.

Friday 14 June 2002

There's no such thing as a free politician..........

......but perhaps there is. No more spending and no pay for politicians! This could get interesting.

Thursday 13 June 2002

Role models

According to the Herald, Cherie Blair (she's the one on the right) is Britain's most irritating woman, with Victoria Beckham at number two. Strangely, Mrs. Beckham is also chosen as having the most desired lifestyle.

Road pricing again

It looks like people here are not keen on the road pricing plans and the Conservative leader agrees with them.

Another book

Also in Business AM today is an article by Ian Ritchie about the recent book by Professor Arthur Herman of the Smithsonian in Washington DC: How the Scots Invented the Modern World - the True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It. Sad to say, this book is still in my large in-pile but I did enjoy the professor's talk in Edinburgh.

National stereotypes

I have been known to peruse the occasional book (!) and am looking forward to the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August. According to Business AM (Registration and payment required - this is Scotland after all), Bill Clinton was paid $100,000 for speaking at the Hay-on-Wye festival in Wales but speakers at the larger Edinburgh gathering get a good Calvinistic flat fee of £100.

Wednesday 12 June 2002

Freedom and Whisky gang thegither!

"...the global warmers are more concerned with denigrating our way of life than with preserving the world's weather" says John Stewart. He copes with Scotland's weather with the help of our best-known product: "a small flask of bottled sunshine."

World Cup 2002 Final - latest

England 0 - Germany 0 (after four years of extra play)

Tuesday 11 June 2002

Road pricing

It looks as if the Edinburgh city council is getting serious about some kind of road pricing scheme. Judging from the map in the Evening News, the F&W blog house is within the proposed inner cordon; hopefully residents won't have to pay to drive home.

Just what are they good for?

Businessmen don't think much of politicians according to a survey in Scottish Business Insider. 78% of chief executives think that the calibre of MSPs is "poor or very poor." But does Scotland's political class know any more about farming? Not acccording to the farmers who think ministers are "reluctant to accept scientific evidence."

Monday 10 June 2002

Nuclear reaction

When I heard the news about a planned nuclear attack on the US, I switched on the television to check the Dow Jones index expecting an even bigger drop than recently. At 6pm (UK time) it was up 82.04 points. Then I realised that the target was Washington

Restaurant regulation

Socialists just can't stop thinking up new ways to attack property rights.

Even more victims

Referring to the "more victims" post on Saturday, a reader has suggested that the ban on DDT raised worldwide malaria deaths from a few thousand to 4 to 8 million per year.

More on Adam Smith's birthday

This article is by Roland Watson, a fellow resident of Edinburgh

Sunday 9 June 2002

Are you listening Tony?

On today's ITV viewers' opinion poll, people voted 6% in favour and 94% against British troops being sent to Kashmir. Looks like they'll be going then..

Saturday 8 June 2002

More victims

The former Bishop of Edinburgh quotes Karl Marx in support of "minority rights." Shouldn't Bishop Holloway be praying for those murdered by socialism rather than praising its founder? He could start by remembering the following deaths: China (65 million), Germany (25 million), USSR (25 million), North Korea (2 million), Cambodia (2 million), Africa (1.7 million and counting), Afghanistan (1.5 million), Vietnam (1 million), Eastern Europe (1 million), Latin America (150,000)

Victims of socialism

Ross Minett calls for: a more efficient and equitable use of existing world food resources.The only way that will happen is if more countries adopt capitalist agriculture policies - starting with the EU and the USA.

Friday 7 June 2002

Cowboy politicians: look out

I like the quote from the Indian cop: a policeman in London is respected and has powers to take action against politicians.

At least they're talking

I am pleased to see that Scottish Asians are getting together to to try and avoid any inter-communal violence in the event of war. On the other hand, I am not at all happy to read that Geoff Hoon may send British troops to Kashmir.

Trouble on the web

I certainly don't support this sort of behaviour by students but can't help wondering if it's a reaction to the state's compulsory attendance laws.

Thursday 6 June 2002

Strength through joy?

A 20 year health plan! How could we survive without politicians?


The lack of competition between Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports is in the news again. What I don't understand, though, is all the attention paid to a supposed need for additional runways in Scotland. Gatwick manages to handle 30 million passengers a year with single runway operation. Glasgow handles 7 million passengers annually and Edinburgh 6 million. Edinburgh should complete full parallel taxiways - that would increase capacity at far less cost than a new runway. For extensive daily discussion about Edinburgh Airport, including a taste of the intense rivalry between our two largest cities, have a look at: (available on Google Groups)

Wednesday 5 June 2002

Sorting out the sheep from the goats

Fordyce Maxwell writes in the Scotsman:
"Some things can’t be taught. In fact, quite a lot of things can’t be taught, and how to make money is one of them. As has been pointed out, correctly, several times recently, there is no positive correlation between an increasing proportion of a nation’s population going through higher education and its economic performance."
Just so. Mr Maxwell's meeting with three multi-millionaires parallels the von Mises quote that I posted on 31st May.

How can this be?

I thought than manufacturing was going to improve only after we had joined the Euro.

Happy birthday Adam Smith

But to think that Tax Freedom Day was a month earlier under Jim Callaghan!

Tuesday 4 June 2002

On the occasion of the Queen’s Jubilee

”From the vantage point of elementary economic theory and in light of historical evidence, then, a revisionist view of modern history results. The Whig theory of history, according to which mankind marches continually forward toward ever higher levels of progress, is incorrect. From the viewpoint of those who prefer less exploitation over more and who value far-sightedness and individual responsibility above short-sightedness and irresponsibility, the historic transition from monarchy to democracy represents not progress but civilizational decline.”
From Chapter 2 of Democracy – The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

Working for the taxman

Is it any wonder that business start-up rates are far too low?

Mugger should get a job

If this lady gets it, why don't the politicians?

Monday 3 June 2002


Over on UK Transport, Patrick Crozier has mentioned this story about Ryanair's possible use of Prestwick Airport as a maintenance base. Perhaps I should declare a special interest here as I am a former resident of Prestwick and grew up watching aircraft there. Indeed, a few years ago I made a point of flying from London to Dublin for the sole purpose of travelling on the very first Ryanair service to Prestwick. After a few hours, I then flew back to Dublin Airport where I consumed several pints of Guinness and then returned to London. An excellent day out.

I would naturally be very pleased to see Ryanair open a base at Prestwick in the footsteps of Polar Air Cargo which has already opened a base there.

However, as the Sunday Times says, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary is a tough negotiator. His company has been reported as looking at some rather strange new destinations in Scotland. Some think this may a negotiating ploy aimed at getting reduced landing fees at more conventional airports. No doubt he is doing the same with his search for a new maintenance base. Let's hope it's Prestwick.

The market returns?

We can only get the correct mixture of transport systems with full privatisation. In the meantime, road pricing is a small step in the right direction.

Nevertheless, it wasn't really necessary for Councillor Burns to say:

but I for one didn't stand for election to do as little as possible
It would be truly extraordinary if any politician promised to do "as little as possible."

Threats from the air

"Drastic action is needed to protect residents from aerial attacks" says local politician. No it's not in India or Pakistan but in a peaceful part of Scotland.

Saturday 1 June 2002


The collectivist extremists just don't get it and Bruce Crichton has to keep correcting them.

Is income tax legal?

According to this letter from Donald Manson of Prestwick,
One stipulation of the Act of Union of 1707 was that Parliament should meet, year about, in England and Scotland. But Parliament became entrenched in London.
Effectively, the Treaty and the two Acts of Union are Britain's constitution. Surely this means that legislation passed on alternative years since 1707 is null and void. This raises fascinating questions. Which taxes are legal? Is the UK a member of the EU? Do women have the vote?

I think we should be told.